Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer's Here, It's Mango Chutney Making Time!

   I grew up in a household where jelly and jams and pickles came in a jar from the market, and cranberry sauce wasn't the "real deal" unless it stood ringed and shivering upright on on the plate. As a working class city kid the idea of making your own condiments was not even on the table. Everyone was working too hard to bother with heavy duty cooking and it was easier and cheaper for my mom to open a box, or buy jelly in glasses that we later used for tableware. By the way, one could also get peanut butter that way back in the day and we had a whole set of "good glassware" that had started out as Big Top Peanut Butter Jars.

Do you know how much peanut butter I had to eat to get a Thanksgiving setting??? Don't even ask. As to Big Top, this is what it looked like... sort of American Horror Story Light.

No wonder I don't like clowns. The idea of actually buying jars and filling them with something one made oneself, was not even contemplated. So, when I got older I became interested in doing just that. I learned to make pickles. I cured olives, and bacon. I made my own  jams, jellies, and chutneys.

   Canning, if one is careful, is actually a really economical and fun way to do home cooking. It's even better if one has access to fruit trees, or one's neighbors do, or one lives in a place where one can forage and glean. Short of that, there are sales and Farmers Markets where things can be bought in bulk. I used to make chutney of the loquats that grew all over the place when we lived in Santa Monica. Friends used to bring them to me to can, and I hated to see something that could be eaten rotting on the sidewalk, or in someones' back yard. Here in Sonoma, I live in a paradise of fruit and vegetables, some of which I grow myself. I don't raise mangoes however and right now we're in peak mango season which means they can be gotten cheaply.

   Whole Foods had a sale on organic mangoes the other day, at 12 dollars a case. One case (12 mangoes) makes 5 pints of chutney, or 10 half pints. When one cooks as much Indian food as I do I'm always opening a bottle of my own chutney for dinner parties, so this is a sweet deal. I have a garage full of canning jars all ready to be filled each season, and I was way behind schedule as we were renovating our new house last Summer and so no canning got done. The pantry was bare. I bought a case of mangoes and got busy.

For those of you who don't want to can , you can also make this chutney in a smaller amount, and keep it in the fridge, just halve this recipe, you'll have plenty left over but it keeps for a while.

Mango Chutney

Here's What You Need:
12 mangoes
5 cups of jaggery  ( you can also use dark brown sugar)
4 Tbs salt
4 Tbs coconut or other vegetable oil
2 Tbs black mustard seeds
4 tsp  crushed cumin seeds
4 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks (about 3 inches each)
1 tsp turmeric
1 to 2 tsp of kashmiri chili

Here's What To Do:
Peel and cut the mangoes into cubes.

Add in the salt.

Add in the brown sugar, or jaggery.

Stir everything together well.

Set it aside and turn you attention to spices.

Put the cumin seeds in a mortar and crush them. They don't have to be pulverized, just sort of smashed.

 Add in the cloves and cinnamon.

Set this aside.
Place a large stainless steel pot on the stove, add in the vegetable oil and heat it up. When it's hot add in the mustard seeds.

When the mustard seeds start to pop, add in the cumin, cinnamon and cloves.

Give everything a stir and add in the mango, salt, sugar mixture.

Bring things to a boil, then lower the heat to a strong simmer, add in the turmeric.

Cook at this heat, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks. You want to cook this for about 1 and 1/2 hours, or until it thickens.

When it's a nice thick blend add in the Kashmiri chili.

Taste the chutney for heat, if you like more kick add a bit more. The best way to do this is start with the smallest amount of chili and then add to that until you're happy with the flavor.
If you're making chutney and not canning it, you are done. Let it cool and then put it into a sealed container in the fridge til you are ready to use it.
If you are canning, sterilize your canning jars  (I run them through the sterilize cycle  on my dishwasher) then put them in boiling water.
Here's an easy tutorial on how to do this. Just click here.
When my filled sterilized jars are ready I place them in the boiling water bath.

place the lid on the pot and boil them for 20 minutes.

Lift them out and let them cool, you will hear the "pop" of the lids as they cool letting you know you have created a seal.

Label your jars and store them in your pantry, or you can open one and enjoy right away.
Canning is simple once you get the hang of it. I've been doing this for about 20 years and there is a lot of information about this both on line and in books.
Mrs. Wheelbarrows Practical Pantry is a great guide to all things preserving, I highly recommend it.

Once you've tried this ancient skill I promise you'll get hooked and start looking around for anything that can be shoved in a jar. Meanwhile you have all that delicious chutney to enjoy.

Coming up next, more chutney recipes, and great easy Indian recipes for Summer entertaining follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fast, And Easy, Pineapple Granita Made in the Freezer.

   In the Summer, nobody wants to spend a whole lot of time in a hot kitchen, and anything that's make-ahead, easy, can be served at room temperature, or made without a lot of fancy equipment is popular. This is why I'm featuring a granita recipe. Now, if you've never had one, granitas originally come from Sicily, but over the years they've worked their way up The Boot and all over Italy. They're usually made up of fruit, water/juice and sugar, though if the fruit you're using is Summer sweet, you might not need any sugar at all. It's a form of sorbet, or what's known as an Italian ice, but the true Sicilian granita always has a much grainier or coarser texture. It's a rustic ice. Delicious, and super easy to whip up. Nothing fancy here.
   We've gone back to work again after being done with my chemo, and so a regular work day means cooking (which happens to be everyday) and needs to be fast and streamlined. Also, even though it won't be official for another couple of days, Summer has definitely come to Sonoma with hot hot temperatures that usually cools down at the end of the day. Because I've been eating a more or less vegan/vegetarian diet since last year (with a few protein breaks during treatment) as much as I love ice cream, I haven't been eating it. I'm not a big sweet eater, but when dessert calls, I like a treat as much as the next person and what could be a better treat than plain old fresh fruit turned into a granita. In this case I used pineapple since organic ones were on sale, but this recipe can be made with any fruit one chooses, fresh or frozen. Here in a couple of easy steps, it's all laid out.

Pineapple Granita


Here's What You Need:

1 whole pineapple
1  13x12 glass baking dish
1 Tb sugar

Here's What You Do:
Cutting your pineapple. I have a pineapple corer but I usually do this old school.

Cut it in half lengthwise.

Take the core out and cut out pieces of meat.

Put the pineapple in a food processor or blender.

Grind it into a puree, add the sugar as this keeps it from freezing into a solid block of ice, and pour it into the baking dish.

Put the whole thing into your freezer.

Rake it with a fork every 30 minutes or so to break it into icy crystals. Do this until it's the texture you want, to  scoop it into serving dishes.

Serve it up!

   Icy, fresh, and delicious, this can be made so fast that it's a real keeper. I make all sorts of granitas during the summer months taking advantage of fresh fruit, but as I said one can easily use frozen fruit.

   Coming up next, I'm roasting an eggplant over fire for a great side dish or dip, I'll show some cool, sustainable ways to entertain, and I finally knuckled under and bought a sous vide machine to see what all the hollering is about. The next step, Indian food meets Science!  Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Easy, Fast, Make Ahead, Take Away, Vegan Potato Salad. Sookhe Aloo.

   When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco there wasn't a party, a cookout, or a picnic that didn't involve a trip to Herman's Delicatessen on Geary Blvd. for some of their self proclaimed "World Famous Potato Salad!"  If you grew up in San Francisco as I did, your family likely turned up at Herman's at one time or another. The place was famous. I am a 5th generation San Franciscan, and so my family had been patronizing Herman's since forever. Herman's was my first introduction to the world of exotic cheeses. My grandparents took me there at the age of five and I was hooked. Now Herman's is long gone; the beautiful tile work in the doorway now leads one into The Gap. There are no exotic cheeses at the Gap, and certainly no World Famous Potato Salad.

   Herman's potato salad recipe can be found online here for those who remember and miss it. I don't think I ever really ate potato salad again once Herman's was gone. For one thing nothing compared, and for another I spent many years eating a vegan diet and all the dairy involved was out the window. However, once I started cooking Indian food 25 years ago, my love for potato salad was satisfied. It turns out Herman's wasn't the only place with a killer potato salad recipe. Indian cuisine features a whole array of them, a great many of them vegan. I was back in business.

   A couple of weeks ago I made my return to cooking and entertaining and one of the dishes I served was one of my favorite Indian potato salads, Sookhe Aloo. This is a spicy potato salad that is easily made ahead. One of a number of Indian potato salad recipes that I make, this one can be served warm or at room temperature which makes it a great dish to take to potlucks, or any sort of cookout. I particularly love make ahead dishes as it makes the preparation of a multi-dish Indian feast a whole lot easier, less to do on the day of the event!  Since 4th of July is coming up fast I'm passing this traditional recipe along, I'll be serving it, you might want to also.

Indian Potato Salad (serves 6)

Here's What You Need:
3 Tbs coconut or other vegetable oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/3 tsp cumin seed
1/3 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbs serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups of finely chopped onion
5 cups of boiled and peeled potatoes (use only new red  or white potatoes. No Yukon Gold or Russets as the texture will be wrong)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili or cayenne (optional)
1/2 Tbs fresh lemon juice.

Here's What To Do:
Put a large pot of salted water on the stove, and bring it to a boil.
When the water boils add the unpeeled whole potatoes to it and cook them until they are fork tender.
Drain the potatoes and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.
When the potatoes are thoroughly cooled peel them.

Slice them...

...and cube them.

When you have 5 cups of cubed cooked potatoes, set them aside.

Chop and mince the onions.

Chop the chili and set it aside.

 In a skillet or kadhai heat the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot add in the mustard seeds.

Once they start to sizzle and pop stir in the turmeric...

...Serrano chili and onion.

Stir fry the onions until they are translucent, then add in your potatoes.

Fry the potatoes for about 2 minutes, until they start to brown a bit.

Then add the garam masala, sugar salt and Kashmiri chili or cayenne (if you're using it).

Turn down the heat a bit, and put a lid on things. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Take off the lid and add in the lemon juice.

Take the pan off the heat and stir everything together until it's well mixed.
Just before serving, get some cilantro. I got to use some of the stuff from my own garden.

Chop up a handful, and sprinkle it over the potato salad.

Serve it up!

potato salad

   There it is, very tasty and fresh with a slight kick from the chili. This can easily be doubled if you're feeding a crowd. It's vegan and gluten free.  I've served this for years whenever I'm looking for an easy crowd pleaser, especially for people who are new to Indian food since it can served with anything from burgers and dogs, to a traditional Indian meal. It ain't Herman's, but it's damn good! Coming up next. Fire roasting an eggplant for a tasty side dish. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Raw Spinach, Coconut, and Peanut Salad, A South Indian Side Dish.

   I wasn't doing a whole lot of cooking from January through mid April. Having chemo, and a lot of doctors visits didn't exactly put me in the mood for cooking and entertaining. I just didn't have the energy or the appetite. Now that I've been done with that for a month and a half, I have gotten my energy and my appetite back. Last weekend we decided to have a couple of very close friends over so that I could break out  my cooking skills again. Normally at our house we do a LOT of entertaining. There's always someone here to sample the latest thing I'm experimenting with, so it felt really weird getting back behind the stove again and cooking for a group. But you know what? Cooking is a lot like riding a bicycle or roller skating (a lot safer than roller skating) and once I was rattling my pots, pans, and clay again I found myself back in business.

   I decided to make the menu simple, and light for the holiday weekend. I made a selection of vegan dishes and then took Kheemah and shaped it into individual sausages for grilling. Sort of like hot dogs, but not. That way, I figured Alan could grill the final product while I concentrated on the vegetables. So, what I'm going to be featuring here are the various things I fixed for that meal. Fast, easy, and healthy, they fit into any sort of entertaining plans and are regularly served at our house, company or not.
   The easiest of these is an Indian raw spinach salad that's easily put together with any bag of pre-washed spinach in just a few minutes.

Raw Spinach, Coconut, and Peanut Salad,  aka Palak Koshimbar

Here's What you Need:
2 bags of  chopped prewashed spinach or 6 cups
2 Tbs coconut or vegetable oil
6 Tbs of fresh grated coconut, or dry unsweetened grated coconut moistened with a bit of water
4 Tbs of ground peanuts
1 tsp of cumin seed
a pinch of hing (asafoetida) (optional)
3 tsps lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt1/2 tsp sugar

Here's What to Do:
Wash and dry your spinach, then chop it.

Mix the spinach, coconut and peanut powder together in a large bowl.

In a small pan heat the coconut or other vegetable oil.

When the oil is hot, add in the cumin seeds.
Cook them until the cumin seeds darken a bit (just a few seconds actually).

Then add in your pinch of Hing if you are using it.
Pour the oil and spices over the spinach mixture in the bowl.

Stir everything together then add in the lemon juice...

Sugar and salt.

Mix again, and that's it you are done.

Pop it into the fridge to chill a bit and serve when you're ready.

   That's it! It couldn't be easier or more delicious. You see why I included this dish in my first big back in the kitchen day? It's an easy make ahead (a few hours ahead ) dish which always helps. Coming up next, a picnic ready Indian Potato Salad Sookhe Aloo. It's another make ahead dish, easy, vegan, and gluten free. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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